Little boys and sports go together like ice cream and summer. But where does the fun end and the pressure to win begin? That's a topic the new Esquire docuseries "Friday Night Tykes" will explore as the project follows the rookie division of the Texas Youth Football Association through the 2013 season.
With football being the most popular sport in the United States, there's an increased focus on finding potential stars at a younger age. In a clip from "Friday Night Tykes" that Esquire is sharing exclusively with TODAY, one parent reveals that recruiters were already eyeing his son at a shockingly young age.
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"We were at a birthday party and this coach walks up to me and shakes my hand and says, 'Is that your boy?' He takes out a full-color, double-sided business card and said, 'Hey, you need to call me,' " Kinton Armmer tells the cameras. "Jaden was 3 years old. I've heard of college recruits getting that kind of attention. But 3- and 4-year-old kids? I cannot believe it. But this is Texas, and you can't go anywhere without football."
Jaden, now 10 years old, started playing flag football with the NE Colts when he was 5, his parents told TODAY.
Even for kids Jaden's age, the pressures can be high. In the video, Colts coach Marecus Goodloe doesn't baby his young players.
"When I see them not giving me 100 percent and I know their potential, it pisses me off," he tells the cameras. And after Jaden returns from a few weeks off for summer fun at his grandma's? "Jaden has a lot of catching up to do," says the coach. "I hope he enjoyed himself, because the next couple of weeks is going to be hell on him. He's going to run, run and run. And if he don't wanna run, he can go home. That's it. He's going to run."
It may not sound like a lot of fun — especially in the Texas heat — but the Armmers insist to TODAY that their son loves the game no matter how tough it gets.
"His mom was against (Jaden playing football)," dad Kinton told us. "It took Jaden asking repeatedly for over a year before she relented." Their son rarely wants to quit, and when he does? It's because he felt like "he was not getting enough playing time," Armmer said.
Goodloe told TODAY that there's a reason for why he's so tough on his players. "I push these kids as hard as I do because I know what their potential is," he said. "I feel like I am giving these young athletes an edge up in football, and more importantly, in life by pushing them as hard as I do. There may be times where I am the only one who is pushing them because no one at home is."
With the tough training and young boys, there are worries that the kids may get seriously injured, whether it's broken bones, concussions or dehydration and heat exhaustion from playing in 100-degree heat in full gear. After all, the professionals certainly get hurt during games.
"Naturally, we fear Jaden getting an injury, but also we have concerns about him possibly hurting someone else," Armmer said of his big boy.
"Injuries are so common nowadays that we take all necessary precautions to ensure we avoid injuries as much as possible," Goodloe assured. "Everyone hopes to see their child on TV one day."
The 10-part docuseries "Friday Night Tykes" premieres Tuesday at 9 p.m. on Esquire. (Having trouble finding the new network? Try the channel finder.)